Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

The Sweet Gum Tree
Author: Katherine Allread
Publication Date: May 12, 2005
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, New Adult, Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.

Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.

Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy—until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back…and he’s not alone.

Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.


The Sweet Gum Tree is not a book that I normally would have picked up. Honestly, the cover and title wouldn’t have appealed to me. Luckily, I read a review of it by Stephanie. Her review made The Sweet Gum Tree sound so interesting. I decided I wanted to read it and requested it from my local library. I’m so happy I did! I ended up really enjoying this book. I didn’t want to put it down. I read it one night, and stayed up super late to finish it.
When I first started reading The Sweet Gum Tree, I wondered what I was getting myself into. While the story was written in my favorite first person narration, it was told straight to me by the main character Alix rather than experiencing it with her. That felt really odd to me. I got used to it and kind of forgot about it. It didn’t ruin the book for me.

I loved the setting of The Sweet Gum Tree. I’m a big fan of books set in the southern United States. This one was even more special with it being set in a small town. I could easily imagine how closely tied together all of the characters were.

I really liked how the story started when Alix was a young girl and grew with her until adulthood. This was done in a great way. I got just enough of her story at important times in her life to understand how she ended up where she was an adult. I loved seeing how her relationship with Nick in all those years changed Alix. I adored Alex and Nick’s love for each other. It was so sweet and it grew from a very special friendship.

What drove me nuts about The Sweet Gum Tree was the lack of communication between the characters. That caused the majority of the problems, and showed just how immature the characters were — even into adulthood. Another thing that was a little frustrating was all the cheating involved in the story. It wasn’t described, so that wasn’t the problem. It was the way that the characters all reacted to it. It seemed like no big deal and was easily forgiven. That was just so odd.

Overall, The Sweet Gum Tree was a surprisingly addictive read. It wasn’t perfect in my eyes, but that didn’t matter. It drew me in, kept my attention, and left me satisfied in the end. If you’re a fan of women’s fiction, books set in the South, or books set in a small town, you might want to give The Sweet Gum Tree a try. It’s a special book.

Review: Stacking the Deck by C.L. Collier

Stacking the Deck
Series: Discovering Us, #1
Author: C.L. Collier
Publication Date: August 27, 2018
Publisher: C.L. Collier LLC
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Brooke:
I’m convinced happily ever after is a myth. Discovering my husband’s secrets has given me no choice but to take my daughter and start over. Unfortunately, that means living with my parents again. Just when I think life has stacked the deck against me, I run into Ryan. It’s been over a decade, but old feelings quickly reignite. The chemistry between Ryan and me is undeniable, and I’m left wondering if this is the way things were always meant to be.

Ryan:
After being a Marine for fourteen years, I move home to start a business with my brother. The last person I expect to walk through the door is the woman I let go. She’s the one I’ve never forgotten, and thoughts of her kept me going all these years. Now I have the chance to prove my worth to her, but will the odds be stacked against us?


Stacking the Deck is the first book in C.L. Collier’s new Discovering Us series. It’s a second chance romance between high school sweethearts, Brooke and Ryan. They haven’t seen each other since they broke up ten years ago when Brooke went to college and Ryan went to the Marines. Each went their separate ways. Brooke ended up married and had a baby. Ryan spent all those years traveling with the Marine’s. After an unexpected betrayal, Brooke has divorced and moved home to live with her parents. Ryan has also recently returned home to open a gym with his brother. When Brooke and Ryan run into each other for the first time in years, neither of them can deny the spark is still there between them.

This the fourth book C.L. Collier has written and it’s the fourth book of hers I’ve read. With each book I have enjoyed seeing her writing grow and blossom. Each book has been better than the last. I really enjoyed Stacking the Deck. The story felt real, like one that could be happening to someone I know.

Brooke and Ryan were great characters. Brooke was a strong woman. I was surprised by how she wasn’t mopey. Her life had exploded, and while she was upset about it, she was determined to make the best of things. I liked how positive her character felt. She took things at her own pace and did what was right for herself and her daughter. Ryan was a winner. He was basically perfect. Ryan had a few flaws, but they weren’t anything that couldn’t be overlooked. I especially loved how Ryan bonded with Brooke’s daughter. I loved what a great support system he was for Brooke and how he wanted to do things right by her and Ellie.  Brooke and Ryan truly had something special together. I could feel the spark they shared.

This book wasn’t just a romance, though. It’s also the story of Brooke coming to terms with her ex-husbands unexpected betrayal and learning to move on. I liked the ups and downs she went through on her journey of reclaiming her life. I actually would have liked to see more of those moments. I am still curious about what went on between the prologue and the first chapter. I was interested in how she got through the tougher times. To go deeper into this, there were times Brooke was telling the reader about something going on or something she went through and it would have been higher impact for the reader if she was experiencing it in the story rather than telling about it. That is probably more a personal reading preferences than anything. I like to experience all the emotional stuff with a character while reading.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading Stacking the Deck. It was a fun, sweet second chance romance involving high school sweethearts.

Release Day Review: Dreams of Falling by Karen White

Dreams of Falling
Author: Karen White
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Historical
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White crafts evocative relationships in this new contemporary women’s fiction novel about best friends who share a devastating secret, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

It’s been nine years since Larkin fled Georgetown, South Carolina, vowing never to go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she knows she has no choice but to return to the place that she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home. Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered in the burned out wreckage of her family’s ancestral rice plantation, badly injured and unconscious. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly 50 years. Secrets that lead back to the past, to the friendship between three girls on the brink of womanhood who swore that they would be friends forever, but who found that vow tested in heartbreaking ways.


Karen White is one of my auto-buy authors. I love the way she writes. I’m always pulled into her books from the first few words on the page. Her stories take a while to unfold, but I know the pay off is going to be worth the wait. It was for Dreams of Falling.

Dreams of Falling is a multi-generational tale about the relationship between mothers and daughters. It stars three women: a grandmother, a daughter, and a granddaughter. Larkin, the granddaughter and main narrator, is a woman who ran from her past. She lives in New York, but is summoned back to South Carolina when her mother is injured. Returning home opens up old wounds for Larkin, and she’s forced to confront her them while her mother is fighting for her life. Ivy, the daughter, is an unexpected narrator. She’s in limbo between life and death, reflecting upon the choices she made and the truths she uncovered before her accident. The final point of view is Ceecee. Ceecee is Ivy’s step-mother who raised her for most of her life and helped raise Larkin. Ceecee was one of Ivy’s mother’s best friends. Her chapters switch between the present and the past, helping unravel the mystery of what happened on the night Ivy’s mother died.

Dreams of Falling was spellbinding. There was this dream like feel to the story. Even when things were taking place in the characters’ present, there was a sleepy quality to the writing. I loved it. The whole tone of the book went with the story being told. It was really cool.

I adored the Georgetown, South Carolina setting. The small town feel helped connect the past to the present and the characters to each other. The mystery brought a darkness to the story, but this amazing setting brought the light. I liked the contrast.

The characters in this book were frustrating — but only because of the way they avoided asking the tough questions of themselves and each other. I understood Larkin’s reasons for trying to become someone different, but I wish she would have been more open to the advice of the people who loved her. Ceecee was way too involved in everyone’s lives. It took me a long time to understand why. There wasn’t enough of Ivy, in my opinion. I really, really wanted to know more about her life growing up. I can’t complain too much about these frustrations, though, because they’re what made Dreams of Falling a captivating story.

I loved the mystery of what happened on the night Ivy’s mother died. The way it unfolded and was revealed to the reader was great. There were some things I guessed, but many that I was surprised by. I loved finding out how one event that happened years ago shaped the lives of three generations of women.

Overall, I loved reading this book. It was exactly what I’ve come to expect from Karen White. If you enjoy multi-generational stories about family, friendship, and love, Dreams of Falling might just be the book for you. Heck, any book by Karen White would be for you.

Review: What I Never Knew I Wanted by C.L. Collier

What I Never Knew I Wanted
Series: What I Never Knew, #2
Author: C.L. Collier
Publication Date: April 2, 2018
Publisher: C.L. Collier LLC
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

When I went to California to fulfill my mom’s last wishes, I got more than I bargained for. Not only did I meet family I never knew I had, I also met Dax. Our long distance relationship hasn’t been easy, but when tragedy strikes, my priorities become clearly defined. My mom may be gone, but as I rush to the one I love, her dreams for my future replay on a loop through my mind. She wanted me to open my heart to love and have a family of my own. Now, I don’t know if I’ll ever get that chance.


What I Never Knew I Wanted is the conclusion to Amanda’s story that began in What I Never Knew. (In order to enjoy this book to the fullest, you will want to read that book first.) Amanda is reeling from the shock she received at the end of the first book. In this book, she deals with the stress of what happened. Amanda’s also moved on from focusing on her mother’s death to navigating what it means to be in a relationship with Dax. Amanda has some tough decisions to make, and more surprises along the way make things even more difficult. The one thing that holds Amanda together is Dax’s love.

I really enjoyed What I Never Knew I Wanted. While the last book felt more like women’s fiction, this one felt more like a contemporary romance. It still had moments of reflection on Amanda’s mother, but it was more about Amanda and Dax. I loved that. Amanda and Dax’s romance was so sweet. I loved how they navigated a long distance romance and made each other a priority. They faced some tough hurdles, but were made stronger by them.

The only thing that threw me off a bit in What I Never Knew I Wanted was the ending. It was a little abrupt. I was waiting for another big dramatic moment, but it didn’t come. All of a sudden I arrived at the epilogue. It wasn’t that I didn’t like that, I just wasn’t expecting it. I think that’s because I know there is a third book. I thought that one was going to be about Amanda and Dax, but maybe it will be about another couple? (I’m hoping Laura and Chris!) I did love how the book ended, though. Amanda and Dax’s happily ever after was perfect.

Review: What I Never Knew by C.L. Collier

What I Never Knew
Series: What I Never Knew, #1
Author: C.L. Collier
Publication Date: March 15, 2018
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

I told myself I was done with men. After a string of bad relationships, then the devastation of losing my mom to cancer, I knew life would never be the same.

Losing my mom was hard enough, but finding out she had lied to me my entire life has rocked me to the core. Even still, I carry out her last wishes and return to her hometown in California.

I was expecting to learn about my mom’s life and extended family, but of course, it’s never that simple. My world changes when I meet Dax, and he makes me question everything.

I have to return home to Seattle, but I also have to make a choice. I swore I was done with relationships and I was happy being single, but there’s something about Dax that I don’t want to leave behind.


I am very excited and proud to introduce to you a new author today. Her name is CL Collier, and I have a feeling her name is one you’ll be hearing in upcoming years. CL and I went to school together during our teen years. She’s someone I’ve reconnected with as an adult over Facebook by noticing we have some favorite authors in common. When I learned she was writing a novel, I wanted to read it.

Normally, I would be super hesitant to read a book by an author I grew up with. There’s always that niggling feeling in the back of your head saying, “What if I don’t like it?” I didn’t have that hesitation with CL’s book. I think that love of the same authors thing gave me faith in her ability to tell a story I would like to hear. My instincts totally paid off because I really enjoyed What I Never Knew.

What I Never Knew was the story of woman discovering her mother’s past after her death. Thirty-eight year old Amanda was incredibly close to her mother prior to her death. When a journal her mother wrote for Amanda is given to her after her mother’s death, Amanda is shocked to find out her mother had a secret past. Determined to get to know her mother better, Amanda departs on a journey to her mother’s hometown. Her mother’s past isn’t the only thing that awaits Amanda on her journey. Amanda might just find love when she least expects it.

Like I said above, I really enjoyed What I Never Knew. For a first novel, the writing was impressive. I’ve read first novels where the writing felt bogged down or not as smooth as a seasoned author. I didn’t feel that way with What I Never Knew. I was pleased at how quickly I was pulled into Amanda’s story, and how well it flowed.

Amanda was an interesting character. She was a single woman who taught for a living. She wasn’t pining over finding a man or having a family. The only disappointment Amanda felt was of losing her mother. Even in grief, Amanda was a strong woman. I loved that she was content in her life the way it was. I also loved the curiosity she had regarding her mother’s previous life. I could really identify with that. There’s so much we never know about our own parents.

Dax was actually my favorite character in What I Never Knew. For some reason, I really loved reading from his perspective. It was a little more relaxed than Amanda’s. I could understand her pull to him by reading his thoughts and actions. He swept me off my feet while he was sweeping Amanda off hers.

One of my favorite things about What I Never Knew were the friendships in it. Amanda had an amazing support system. Laura and Krista were so different, but each had a role in Amanda’s life. They lifted her up when she needed it, and she did the same for them. I loved reading their shared experiences. It made me think of my own special, lifelong friendships.

I only had a couple of little frustrations with What I Never Knew. First, I would have loved for Amanda’s mom’s secrets to be even more juicy, even more salacious. They were good, but I wanted more drama. Maybe I just needed the secrets to be described even more. Second, I felt for a minute like I missed a turning point in Dax and Amanda’s relationship. Amanda reacted to something heavily, and it caught me off guard. I don’t know if it was something I personally missed or if things just jumped in time and circumstance faster than I was prepared for.

Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was the ending! It was great! I was so shocked! I didn’t expect it to end when it did or in the way it did. What I Never Knew definitely left me hungering for more! I’m so excited to find out where this story goes in the next book!

What I Never Knew was a great début novel. If you’re a fan of women’s fiction with a heavy dose of romance, What I Never Knew would be right up your alley. CL Collier’s storytelling reminds me a bit of Kristan Higgins’ newer novels or somewhat of Kristin Hannah’s early novels about family relationships and love. It was filled with love, friendship, and family.

BUY NOW!

Review: Dragonfly Wishes by Penny Harmon

Dragonfly Wishes
Author: Penny Harmon
Publication Date: June 23, 2017
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Callie Daniel’s had it all – a handsome and loyal husband – a sweet and loving son. When death comes knocking at the door twice and they are both taken from her, Callie is suddenly struggling to find a reason to continue with her own life.

During an accidental overdose, she discovers that maybe her son is not lost to her forever when she sees a vision and her journey to understand what happens after death takes top priority.

In the middle of Callie’s quest to deal with her grief, she uncovers a secret that she just can’t ignore. These secrets lead her on a journey to understanding more about life than she ever expected to know.


Dragonfly Wishes is the story of woman struggling with the grief and how she begins to overcome it. During treatment of her seven-year old son’s leukemia, Callie tragically loses her husband in a car accident. She pushes through to help her son heal. When her son loses his fight, Callie is sent spiraling into depression. She doesn’t know how to go on until her son Cooper inspires her from the grave. From that moment on, Callie goes on a journey of healing.

This is the first book I’ve read by Penny Harmon and I was impressed. Her story was very emotional and felt like it realistically covered Callie’s stages of grief. I don’t really want to imagine going through losing both my spouse and child, but Penny Harmon made it easy to put myself in Callie’s place. Her pain was my pain. While Dragonfly Wishes was uncomfortable at times, it was also inspirational. It showed there is always hope in the darkest of times.

My only problem with Dragonfly Wishes was the editing of it. This may sound nitpicky, but there were several writing errors throughout the book. They were words that weren’t the right words for the sentence. They popped out at me every time I came across them.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dragonfly Wishes. It was a great story about grief and reclaiming life.

Release Day Review: Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis

Lost and Found Sisters
Series: Wildstone, #1
Author: Jill Shalvis
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes her first women’s fiction novel—an unforgettable story of friendship, love, family, and sisterhood—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Susan Mallery, and Kristan Higgins.

They say life can change in an instant…

After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.’s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she’s looking for a missing piece she can’t find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. This shocking revelation washes over Quinn like a tidal wave. Her whole life has been a lie.

On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn’t quite fit in right away, she can’t help but be drawn to the town’s simple pleasures…and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there’s another surprise in store for her. The inheritance isn’t a house or money, but rather something earthshattering, something that will make her question everything she thought she knew about herself, about her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up to Quinn, she must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have—and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she’s searched so long for.


I’m a big Jill Shalvis fan. She’s the first contemporary romance author I read who incorporated humor into her novels. I love how she’s always able to mix witty banter with intense sexual chemistry. It’s always exciting to read each new release of hers. I was especially excited to find out she was beginning a new series with Lost and Found Sisters.

Lost and Found Sisters was a little different from other novels I’ve read by Jill Shalvis. It almost had more of a women’s fiction feel to it than a contemporary romance. There were so many different levels to the story. First, there was Quinn coming to terms with the loss of her sister and where she was in life at age thirty. Second, there was Quinn’s discovery of a past she had no idea existed. Third, there was a possible romance between Quinn and the handsome stranger Mick. The majority of the story was focused on what Quinn wanted out of life and how she came to her decision. The romance was secondary to that.

Quinn was an easy character for me to identify with. I can’t go into why too much because I don’t want to give away any surprises, but she and I had something in common. Her surprise wasn’t something I’ve had to go through, but I was able to empathize with her because I could imagine going through the same thing. I’m just happy she had the adorably sexy Mick to help her through it all.

Mick was one of the good guys. His maturity was sexy. He knew what he wanted out of life, but wasn’t scared to make a change when an unexpected opportunity came his way. His relationship with Quinn may have had its ups and down, but his unwavering support of Quinn was sweet.

I loved all of the secondary characters in this book. Each was special to the story and Quinn in some way. Surprisingly, Lena was my favorite. She might have been Quinn’s nemesis at first, but she had so much personality! I am hoping Lena gets her own book. I would love to see how things work out for her and Boomer.

The only thing I missed in Lost and Found Sisters was Shalvis’ trademark humor. There were moments of it, but they weren’t as continuous as in some of her other novels. I also missed the romance being front and center in the story. I wanted a little bit more sexiness in the story. I’m hoping as the series goes on, those things get worked more into the next books.

Overall, Lost and Found Sisters was a very enjoyable read. It was filled with an amazing setting, lovable characters and a whole lot of heart. Lost and Found Sisters would be the perfect book to take to the beach or on any other of your summertime adventures.

Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.


Why did I wait so long to read this book? It’s been on my TBR ever since it came out. I got it from the library once, but ran out of time to read it. I’m so disappointed in myself because Big Little Lies is a masterpiece. I really need to thank my friend who chose it for our book club read. She forced me to pick it up, and I will be forever thankful.

Big Little Lies was flawlessly written. It kept me guessing the entire time I was reading.  I could never quite figure out how everything was going to all play out. It drove me a little nuts because so many of the revelations aren’t made until the end. All my guesses were wrong. Each twist and turn had me gasping and reading faster.

What wasn’t flawless in this story were the characters. Each had his or her imperfections. Some were instantly likable, and they had my instant sympathy. Others were annoying. A couple were down right detestable. When it all came down to it, how I felt about the characters didn’t matter. All that mattered was how they were wrapped up in what happened. Each character was perfect for Big Little Lies.

Big Little Lies was a constantly shifting story that explored several different issues. I loved how each issue was woven into the story and the mystery of it. It was an amazing read, and I highly recommend reading it. I really want to watch the new television adaptation of Big Little Lies now!

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction; Romance; LGBT+
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

From Taylor Jenkins Reid, “a genius when it comes to stories about life and love” (Redbook), comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for “creating complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.


Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author I’ve always wanted to read a book by but hadn’t yet. I was very excited to get to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and experience her writing. I had heard such great things about her books.

I was a little nervous about reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo because a couple of my trusted blogger friends were not impressed by it. After reading it, I can understand why this book may not be for some readers. It’s filled with uncomfortable situations and moments. Evelyn was unabashedly candid in the telling of her life story. She was unapologetic about the people she hurt or wronged. Some, if not all, of her decisions will disgust some readers. Evelyn was simply unlikable.

I wasn’t a fan of Evelyn’s, but I did appreciate her story. The methods she used to get what she wanted were brash, but she acknowledged that. Everything she did, right or wrong, made for an interesting tale. I wasn’t put off by most of her actions. I liked how they led to and explained her seven husbands. I truly enjoyed the journey through Evelyn’s life and loves.

Monique wasn’t much of a character at first. Her story loosely wove around Evelyn’s, and I also found it hard to like her. I don’t know that I ever ended up liking her, but I did end up respecting her. The things she learned about Evelyn and from Evelyn were profound. I loved that she put to use what she learned.

From the book blurb, the reader knows going into the story that Evelyn and Monique’s lives intertwine in some way. I never could have guessed how. It was definitely a twist I didn’t see coming. It was perfect and I really like what it did to the story line. It made the ending all that more perfect.

I may not have fallen in love with the characters of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but I was mesmerized by the story. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer capable of weaving a multifaceted tale. I loved her writing style, and I am looking forward to reading her other books.

Review: The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

30068929The Guests of South Battery
Series: Tradd Street, #5
Author: Karen White
Publication Date: January 10, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery, Historical, Romance, Fiction
Note: I received an ARC from Berkley via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White invites you to explore the brick-walked streets of Charleston, where historic mansions house the memories of years gone by, and restless spirits refuse to fade away…

With her extended maternity leave at its end, Melanie Trenholm is less than thrilled to leave her new husband and beautiful twins to return to work, especially when she’s awoken by a phone call with no voice on the other end—and the uneasy feeling that the ghostly apparitions that have stayed silent for more than a year are about to invade her life once more.

But her return to the realty office goes better than she could have hoped, with a new client eager to sell the home she recently inherited on South Battery. Most would treasure living in one of the grandest old homes in the famous historic district of Charleston, but Jayne Smith would rather sell hers as soon as possible, guaranteeing Melanie a quick commission.

Despite her stroke of luck, Melanie can’t deny that spirits—both malevolent and benign—have started to show themselves to her again. One is shrouded from sight, but appears whenever Jayne is near. Another arrives when an old cistern is discovered in Melanie’s backyard on Tradd Street.

Melanie knows nothing good can come from unearthing the past. But some secrets refuse to stay buried….


I was excited when I heard Karen White was going to be continuing her Tradd Street series. I was sure the fourth book, Return to Tradd Street, was going to be the end. That made me so sad because I loved every minute of this quirky series. Luckily, I was wrong!

The minute I began The Guests on South Battery, I was immediately sucked back into Melanie Middleton Trenholm’s world. It was fun to be back in her uptight mind, traversing around downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Despite getting married and having twins, Melanie hadn’t changed much. She still had her insecurities and anal-retentive compulsions. I enjoyed seeing how Jack, her husband, dealt with them. Their relationship was changing and progressing throughout the entire story and I loved that a lot.

I also loved how Karen White brought back all of my favorite characters from the entire series. She gave them each the perfect part in this story. There were also some great new characters introduced. They added some cool twists to the mystery of the story and brought a new depth to the recurring characters and their histories. I especially liked Jayne and her role in The Guests on South Battery.

My favorite thing about The Guests on South Battery, though; was the mystery of the story. I was fascinated by Jayne randomly inheriting the house on South Battery. I was dying to know why the previous owner chose her the entire time I was reading. I knew the ghosts inhabiting the house were somehow involved in the answer, but I never would have guessed why.

My only little issue with The Guests of South Battery was Melanie’s insecurity surrounding her post-baby life. She’s always been insecure, but there was denial she was going through that was a little odd. I didn’t like the way those around her acted about it. They were all controlling a part of her life and I didn’t really understand why. It was almost like I was missing a piece of their interactions or something. It didn’t make me dislike the book, but I just found it a bit…odd.

Once again, Karen White has written a beautifully crafted mystery. I truly loved reading The Ghosts on South Battery and being back in Charleston with the Middletons and the Trenholms. It was such a fun ghost story/romance/mystery. I especially loved the ending and how I felt that it left things open for the possibilities of more books in the series. I highly recommend the entire Tradd Street series to readers who like mysteries with a historical touch.